Gene sequencing X Prize to focus on centenarians

Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:00am EDT

* Prize purse of $10 million

* 30-day contest to launch January 2013

Oct 26 (Reuters) - A $10 million contest to see which laboratory can accurately and economically sequence 100 human genomes has been tweaked to focus on the genetics of people over the age of 100.

The competition, now sponsored by drug benefit manager Medco Health Solutions Inc , is aimed at achieving a "medical grade" standard for gene sequencing that could ultimately be used to personalize medical treatment based on a person's genetic makeup.

"All the technology that people are buying now gives slightly different answers," said pioneer geneticist Craig Venter. "That means by definition they are not good enough for diagnostics."

While quality, speed and accuracy of the testing is improving, the companies involved, including Applied Biosystems, Illumina and Complete Genomics, all have their own standards, he said.

"We are trying to help the field get to where it wants to be," said Venter, who became the first individual to have their genome sequenced in 2007. "We are working with the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) to use this as an agreed upon definition to take genomics to the next grade."

The process of selecting the 100 centenarians is now underway.

The revised competition will measure laboratory teams on accuracy, cost, speed and completeness of genome sequencing.

Teams will get the 100 genomes on Jan. 3, 2013, and the competition will conclude on Feb. 3 of that year.

A $10 million prize purse will be given to the first team that accurately sequences the whole genome of 100 subjects within 30 days for $1,000 or less per genome, at an error rate no greater than one per million base pairs.

"We believe this competition will be the impetus to truly usher in the era of personalized medicine," said Venter.

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